Month: December 2014

The Beauty and The Fear

Originally posted on The Truths of Becoming: 3/4/14

Houston winters are fickle at best. One day you are traipsing around in sandals and shorts and the next morning you are searching the deep dark corners of the wardrobe for your winter coat, the one you bought for that one trip up north.

Today is of the latter variety. Last night the thunder rolled in. Trees crackled and snapped all night. And I awoke to icicles adorning every branch and poorly placed power line in my backyard. As I drove, ever so cautiously, to work on the outskirts of this fine city, I began to notice the trees. From the highway, being eye to eye with the treetops in the distance, their adornment was stunning. It was as though they were wearing the most beautiful gown, hand-beaded by the most sought after designer. Their leaves and branches shimmered and the weight of the ice enhanced every curve and crevice of their magnificent figures. Beautiful.

But as I exited the highway and turned off onto the road that takes me daily to my work, I had a new perspective. I was no longer standing among the trees as though they were my peers. Rather, I was beneath their branches, and I felt small. Most days, I drive that road in awe. It is easily the best part of my commute. The way the sun streams through the branches…I am transported to a land of magic and fairy tales and legends of heroes defeating evil, or to my own personal Terabithia.  But today, those trees were not the guards ushering in life. Today, those trees were bent, heavy with the burden of slowness. This slowness is seen in the ice that weighs them down. It is only water, the very thing that they need to grow and stand tall. But last night, as temperatures dropped, those molecules of water slowed down and changed. Some trees held the weight well, took the change in stride. But, many others were bent so low that I feared that they might come crashing onto me in a moments notice. Others had already met that fate, limbs were strewn about the ground, evidence of a burden too heavy. And honestly, a drive that usually is marked by warmth and light, was marked today by heaviness and a little fear.

And I see myself in those trees. I see those of us who are shepherding others in those trees. Sometimes, we get into the groove of the normalcy of life, it’s bright and warm and full of the hope of a faraway land. We feel strong, like we could conquer anything in this light and others see it too, this magical strength, this ushering in of life. But then, sometimes overnight, things suddenly slow. The things that have nourished us transform ever so slightly, molecules rearranged, and we bend under the heaviness. And bending is fine, we were made to bend. Our knees bend to absorb the shock of force when we jump or run. But if our knees are not strong enough, if the trees are not strong enough, too much force and weight will break them. And if we, leaders, parents, are not strong enough, too much of this slow burden will break us. Of course, strength doesn’t come from oneself. It never does, not with trees or people. Strength for those trees is developed over years, from the first sprout of the seed-the depth of the reach of roots and the nourishing quality of the soil they are planted in. Many trees can grow tall without ever growing strong. And you and I can as well. We can reach great heights but if our roots never reached great depths, or if we are not nourished by the soil of Truth and Life, we will be broken by the heaviness of the burden. And if that is our state, if we are not standing in a strength of faith having been built up over the years, we are a danger to those beneath us.

But, when we have grown up with the strength of The Lord soaking into our every fiber, when our strength comes from the Source, then everything looks different. We may bend, but when our view is from the heavens downward, the bending of the branches gleams with a beauty of the intricate work of the most glorious Designer, the Strong Creator, Elohim. He sometimes pours His light through our branches and He sometimes adorns them with the slowness of burdens. When He is our strength, the threat of danger is over shadowed by careful work of His detailed and purposeful delight and design.

May we be leaders who soak in the gifts of The Light and the days that warm us so that we might stand when the tiny molecules of our plans are rearranged and become heavy.

In the Midst of the Borderlands

Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice.

Three black men who lost their lives at the hands of white policemen.

I have been so heavy-hearted lately over these stories. The night that the decision in the Mike Brown case was announced, I was up for hours watching live coverage of Ferguson- -heartbroken for the people this decision was directly affecting. Hurting for Mike Brown’s family as the still very tender wound of losing a son was ripped open again in the public eye. Wondering what it must be like for black Americans. Wondering what the grand jury members were feeling and thinking that night. Wondering what the spouses and children of officers must be feeling as they send them out to a city of people who see them as the enemy. Wondering what one is supposed to do in the face of such fear and anger and hurt. Wondering and praying.

Now,  do I have opinions about all of this? Absolutely. Are they well informed opinions? Probably not well-enough informed. Right, wrong, lawful, unlawful, an issue of race or of criminal behavior? These things need to be addressed, but in the proper setting, which this particular blog (and many other blogs, that have attempted anyways) is not.

These are the borderlands of “Bedrocks and Borderlands”. There are foundational truths(bedrocks) that we set ground ourselves in as we navigate the challenging terrain before us (borderlands).  I want to take a look at the bedrock and borderland issues before us.

Bedrocks:

-All people were created in the image of God and are intrinsically valuable as a result.

-God, as the supreme creative One, made people to be different. Different gifts, passions, personalities, skin color.

-People were created to live in perfect unity with one another and with God.

-Sin destroyed that unity.

-Later, human arrogance prompted God to confuse language and the physical divide became greater (the spiritual divide is a far as it will ever be).

-Christ made a way for us to be reconciled to God and one another.

-If we know Christ, we are His ambassadors and are tasked with the ministry of reconciliation.

-Because we live in the space between already being justified, but not yet being fully sanctified, carrying out that ministry is difficult.

All authority rests on His shoulders.

-All truth belongs to God.

Borderlands:

-There is a racial divide in our country.

-There is an imperfect governing system.

-There are countless news sources feeding us different angles and sometimes different stories all together.

-There is the internet and social media, which means anyone, anywhere can share their opinion with the entire world in seconds.

-There are people that are hurting and terrified on both sides of the wall. 

Now, the question becomes, how do the bedrocks help us navigate the borderlands?

If all people are intrinsically valuable because they are made in the image of God, then how we treat and view people needs to change. It is one thing for someone who doesn’t know Christ to live in the world of division but as Christ-followers, we have no excuse. Christ came to reconcile. He gave us the ministry of reconciliation. If our words and actions are speaking into the division rather than speaking into unity, then we are ignoring the blood of Christ. Arrogance caused the division. And arrogance will continue to divide.

If all authority rests on God’s shoulders, then even in a country where the government is self-seeking, or making choices that we don’t agree with, we can trust God. People are broken (sin, remember?). No President, no Mayor, no officer of the law will ever be able to bring peace. They will never be able to even hold up the law they put in place, much less the laws of God. I can’t. You can’t. None of us can. So, when governments make poor choices, even evil choices, when grand juries make decisions we feel are wrong, when we feel oppressed or afraid because of government, when we do our best to govern rightly and people hate us, we trust God.

When we hear reports on the news, flip the channel and hear a different report, surf the internet and find yet another contradicting story, we don’t believe everything we hear. We don’t trust one news source. If we really want to know the facts, we search for them rather than letting them be spoon fed to us. And when we can’t get to the bottom of things, we thank God that what we can’t figure out, He already knows.

And when we can’t get to the bottom of things, we don’t parade around as though we have. Yes, it is easy to voice our opinions and the world of social media has opened the door for everyone to be a lawyer, journalist, jury, etc. But, just because we CAN share our opinions doesn’t mean we should.

When people are hurting and afraid, what is the proper response? Empathy and compassion. More listening than talking.

I’m not suggesting we compromise truth, but I am suggesting that maybe we don’t have a full enough grasp on the situation at large to fully understand truth. And, I am suggesting that even if we do have a good grasp on truth, it doesn’t excuse us from treating people with dignity. We should be moving toward each other but instead, we are drawing lines in the sand and demanding that people pick sides.

As adults, we have a  responsibility to teach the next generation. I can tell you from my own experience and from observing the experiences of many others, that if the only time parents and adults talk about people who are not like them is in a political context, then what our kids will hear is hate and fear. If we are not intentional about stepping into community with people who look, think, and live differently than us, than our kids will not learn to love. And if we think we don’t have a problem with race, or other differences, then I would suggest that, possibly, it is because we have moved into an area of town where we don’t have to be confronted with it. If that is the case, then it may be that we have a huge problem but have set our lives up in a way where we can ignore our sin rather than deal with it.

Perhaps, rather than weigh in on if the officers were right or wrong, if black communities need to deal with the way they treat each other instead, if people are responding correctly in circumstances, we should listen to understand. Perhaps we should cry with each other. Perhaps we should step into hurting communities ready to help restore. Perhaps we should consider if our faith or our fear is informing our lives.